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2015: The Year in Music 

Who recorded, who emerged, who continued to rule — and who left us

click to enlarge Irma Thomas and Davell Crawford salute Allen Toussaint at a memorial service at the Orpheum Theater.

Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Irma Thomas and Davell Crawford salute Allen Toussaint at a memorial service at the Orpheum Theater.

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods, amid venue closures and noise crackdowns, New Orleans artists are still making music, whether it's on the street, in a dive, or at a grand reopened theater. Here are some of 2015's music stories and the people who made them.

The departed

  The music world's heart sank with the death of Allen Toussaint, the architect of New Orleans funk and the man behind hits that sealed the city's legacy of rhythm and blues. To honor him, music dignitaries and dozens of New Orleans musicians from his storied career paid tribute to the songwriter and producer at the Orpheum Theater in November. Just a few months prior, he was the first artist to perform on its reopened stage. Elvis Costello ended his remarks the way Toussaint did in his correspondence: "Looking forward."

  Mardi Gras Indian funk maestro and Wild Magnolias' Big Chief Theodore Emile "Bo" Dollis died Jan. 20. Travis "Trumpet Black" Hill — a rising jazz and brass band star and grandson of Jessie Hill — died May 4. Composer, arranger and saxophonist Harold Battiste died June 19. "Sea Cruise" crooner Frankie Ford died Sept. 28. Joseph "Smokey" Johnson (who penned "It Ain't My Fault") died Oct. 6.

The transplants

  Part-time recluse Father John Misty semi-retired to New Orleans before waves of praise followed his sardonic loveletter I Love You, Honeybear, and new New Orleanians Arcade Fire debuted their experimental concert film and documentary The Reflektor Tapes. Soul man Nigel Hall released his throwback R&B-filled debut, Ladies & Gentlemen... Nigel Hall, and rising funk ensemble Naughty Professor released its third LP Out on a Limb. Rickie Lee Jones released her first album of new material in a decade, The Other Side of Desire, inspired by her new Bywater home.

The songwriters

  The Deslondes — whose members helped galvanize a downtown folk and country renaissance — released its self-titled full-length album showcasing the range of voices and grasp of roots music and songwriting chops in its ranks. Meanwhile, The Kid Carsons (with its gorgeous full-length album) and its Bear America Records crew ushered an Uptown roots revival. Singer-songwriter Kristin Diable's Create Your Own Mythology, piano man Jon Cleary's acclaimed Go Go Juice, and Feufollet's genre-spanning Two Universes were among solid releases from 2015.

The noisemakers

  Woozy and Heat Dust released their anticipated debut full-length albums. One's a beautifully warped, unpredictable experiment, the other an addictive post-punk doom bringer. And punk rockers PEARS and Donovan Wolfington blew up nationally. Downtown rock 'n' roll heroes Lonely Lonely Knights released their self-titled debut, and Bywater's musical architecture project The Music Box visited New Orleans City Park for several nights of far-out sound experiments featuring Solange, Quintron, Meschiya Lake and members of Wilco and Animal Collective, among others.

The queens

  Permanent royalty Big Freedia, on the heels of her 2014 album Just Be Free, continues to rep the bounce world and New Orleans from her hit reality TV series and onstage — she took New Orleans' multimedia rap performance artist Boyfriend on tour this fall.

The kings

  Prolific rapper Curren$y wrapped 2015 with his late-night low-riding epic Canal Street Confidential, Christian Scott turned jazz on its head with his genre-bouncing Stretch Music, and literal blues king Little Freddie King celebrated his 75th birthday with the release of his 2015 album Messin' Around Tha Living Room.

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